As a cyclist your apartment can often seem more like expensive storage than your home. You spend so much time on the road that you learn to cherish the four or five days you can squeeze in at ‘home’ before jumping on the next plane, bus or train to the next race.
I’ve been away now since before The Women’s Tour at the start or May and have five days before I have to repack my bags. It seemed like a good time to share a little bit of what I’ve been up to in that time.
Tour of the UK
After experiencing everything that was so awesome about The Women’s Tour (you can read two blogs about it here and here) and catching up with my parents after almost three months away from them I headed off to Glasgow to check out the course for the upcoming Commonwealth Games.
I’m not sure if I’m going yet (the cut off to qualify is June 1 – extended from May 25 – and then presumably the team will be announced sometime after that. Although after enduring the Olympic qualification and selection process I wouldn’t be surprised if I find out days before the actual event) but one thing for certain is the course is pretty awesome and will be a fantastic race.
The course literally goes through the centre of Glasgow city; racing on two pedestrian malls and through same beautiful inner city parks Shara Gillow, Tiffany Cromwell and were up at 5.30am three days in a row just to get the best possible ‘run at it’.
There’s no long mountains by every lap you have around 130 metres of altitude gain which is largely contributed to by three short, sharp power climbs around the course.
Whether I’m there or not, my family will be. They booked their tickets and accommodation months ago.
After Glasgow there was a natural break in racing for those who weren’t doing the Tour of Chongming Island and the World Cup in China.
After five years returning to the same race, with the same courses, and the same pickled eggs, I made the decision early in the season that I wouldn’t be going through the hassle of trying to organise a Chinese visa while in Europe. Instead, I would stay in Europe and train.
My teammamte Elisa Longo Borghini half invited me to come and train with her during the Spring and I latched on to the comment, booked my flight to Milan and asked Elisa to pick me up from the airport.
After a small hiccup which occurred when I failed to specify that I was arriving at 9.15 in the evening and not the morning I found myself in Ornavasso, a small town near Lago Maggiore in Italy and Elisa’s home town.
Around my family and friends I like to joke that I’m Canberra famous; I’m yet to crack the magazine covers like Marianne Vos and have t-shirts made that say ‘when I grow up I want to ride like Chloe Hosking’ hence why it’s limited to Canberra.
Well, Elisa is definitely more Ornavasso famous than I am Canberra famous. On our first training ride together Elisa had waved and said ‘ciao‘ to more people than I actually know in Canberra.
I didn’t just randomly choose to come to Italy to train. I chose to come to Italy to train with Elisa.
Elisa is one of the best hill climbers, time trialists and general classification riders in the women’s peloton and while some of that might be because her family is athletically gifted (her brother is a professional cyclist of Cannondale Pro Cycling and her Mum was an Olympic cross-country skier) a lot of it is because she trains hard. Really hard.
It’s something a lot of people recognise and respect about her. When I was talking to my coach about the training block after The Women’s Tour I flagged the idea of going to altitude or going to Elisa’s house to train. My coach, a sports scientist, suggested they would have the same effect; ‘Elisa seems to have a good work ethic, that’ll be just as good for you.’
On our first ride the work ethic was more than evident. The night before we’d been comparing training programs to see what we could actually do together. She saw some 30 minute T3 efforts (efforts where I am between 80-89% of my max heart rate) and asked what they were. I gave a brief explanation.
In the end it didn’t really matter because riding next to her I was in my T3 zone anyway. My heart rate was literally 15 beats higher than what I usually train at and my power was at least 30 watts more.
Of course I couldn’t let her know I was suffering. Fortunately most days I had more hours than her so as soon as we said our fair-wells I allowed my power to drop back to normal levels.
On one ride our duo swelled to six or so riders as more and more amateurs spotted Elisa and turned around to join her on her training – she has obviously built up a local reputation for hard training as well.
Like marionettes Elisa was controlling us all, and we were more than happy to follow along. She was doing time-trial efforts in preparation for the upcoming Italian national championships and during her efforts we were all just single file trying to hang onto her wheel.
After the ride I said to Elisa about the very fit amateurs we met during that days training; “It’s amazing, they just do whatever you ask them to do.”
She smiled and laughed a little to herself before saying; “Sometimes I just ask them to pace me.”
During the week I even attended a press conference with Elisa to launch the eighth stage of this years Giro Rosa.
The stage starts in Verbania, about a 20 minute drive from Elisa’s home, and finishes up a mountain that climbs more than 1200 altitude metres in 13 kilometres. The stage was designed by Elisa herself which gives you some clue to what sort of rider she is… (a sadistic one).
It was a fantastic eight or so days of training around Ornavasso. In seven days I rode more than 700 kilometres and climbed more than 7000 altitude metres. Training peaks tells me I spent just under 30 hours on the bike.
What’s more is I got to spend time with some seriously lovely people; I think I have decided to adopt Elisa’s parents Guidina and Nando as my European parents. It’s when you get to spend time with people like the Longo Borghinis that paying €600/month for storage seems okay.
Every morning when I came down for training I would find my bike ready and waiting for me. Nando – who seemed to think I was crazy because of the amount of hours I was doing – would have prepared my water bottles and even left bars and gels out for me to get me through the long kilometres (they saved me from hunger flatting more than once) and Guidina told me I looked skinny and complemented my cooking so she went straight to the top of my favourite person list.
I also met the famous Andrea, the ring leader of the Ornavasso Sports Enthusiast Club ‘The Zampine Orna’ which Elisa wrote a blog about earlier this year. Andrea spent a few months in Glasgow learning English last year (I told him I couldn’t even understand what people from Glasgow were saying most of the time) and is contemplating coming to Glasgow to watch the Commonwealth Games August.
Back in Girona in my little one bedroom apartment it seems sadly quiet. As I watch the Giro however, Paolo (Elisa’s older brother) is in the break and I can only imagine how excited Nando, Guidina and Elisa would be.